One Nation, But With Regional Personality Differences

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TS-185922164 Houseguestscrop

By Katherine Sharma

One thing my daughter’s wedding in California is accomplishing is a gathering of cultural and regional diversity; besides the 27% foreign-born here, there are many U.S. natives who have migrated to the West Coast from other states. I wondered if it was my imagination that I was observing regional personality differences. The answer per recent research is that, yes, America’s regions tend to differ by common personality traits.

In 2013, researchers from the University of Cambridge published a study of regional character in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, based on a 12-year analysis of personality traits of nearly 1.6 million people living in the United States and Washington, D.C. (excluding Hawaii and Alaska) via Facebook, surveys and other methods. They looked particularly at five personality dimensions–agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, and neuroticism.

TS-185905158 Regional DiversityThe study found that the most friendly and conventional people tended to live in the South and north-central Great Plains region, while relaxed and creative traits were more common in the Western and Eastern coastal areas. New Englanders, in contrast, were most likely to be uninhibited and temperamental.

If my long years in California have rubbed off on my personality, I should be above the national average in openness and extroversion, but sub par on conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism. Then again, my family roots are in Texas, and I went to elementary school there, so maybe the fact that its citizens score above average on every trait except neuroticism will leaven the impact of the less friendly and less conscientious California bent. Curious about state and regional personality? Read But if you want regional differences that you can more confidently observe, consider American language schisms. How do you pronounce crayon, pecan, caramel, pajamas, or lawyer? For maps of state-by-state linguistic conflicts, see


Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.

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